Photo credit: Chia

Jobs 101: OBS instructor

The life of an outdoor programme instructor will always be fun, fresh, and fulfilling.

Brandon Chia

Published: 13 January 2017, 12:07 PM

Youth.SG travelled across the Punggol waters to sunny Pulau Ubin to chat with an Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) instructor, Nuraisyah Nordin.

Aisyah was buzzing with energy and enthusiasm for someone who was clearly sleep deprived. She even offered me a Pocky stick before our interview commenced, although we just met less than five minutes ago.

Who: Nuraisyah Nordin, 26
Occupation: Outward Bound Singapore programme instructor
Studied: Bachelor of Arts with Merit in Literature from the National University of Singapore

Tell us more about yourself!

I like to read. I also like cheap thrills (laughs)! I like to go white-water kayaking and I like to tag along with people on their motorbikes. Basically, I like simple things, such as sitting down with my friends and doing things like singing and eating.

My friends would describe me as thoughtful and caring. I mean, they also call me bubbly but I want to sound cooler than that!

Even though Aisyah was sleep deprived, she was full of energy during our interview. Photo credit: Chia

How and why did you become an OBS instructor?

Nearing the end of university, I knew I couldn’t work in an office because I am not the type of person who likes to dress up [in business attire] and stick to the same four walls forever.

When I came away from my OBS course [in secondary three], I felt this magical feeling that I could do anything by myself and I felt very good about myself. When I decided to join OBS, I wanted to give this [empowering] feeling to someone else.

Plus, OBS was the first job option that popped up when I visited the JobStreet website, so I decided to just give it a try! Hahaha!

Could you describe a typical day at work?

On a normal day, we would meet our programme participants at 5.55am for flag raising. We have morning games to hype them up and some physical training to get them conditioned for the rest of the course.

After that, we will have a circle session, where [the participants and instructors] come together to talk or discuss some questions and reflections they thought of the night before.

The blue flag Aisyah is pointing to symbolises the participants’ ongoing “voyage”. Photo credit: Chia

Then the day starts. On some days, the participants will go climbing or pack their bags to get ready for an expedition. Once they get to their campsite, they will settle down and we will meet again at night for a briefing.

What is the most memorable moment you’ve had as an OBS instructor?

It happened a few days ago [in early December]. I was sailing with a group of participants and within 30 minutes from sailing off, the thundery weather came in. I could see everyone going “Oh my gosssshhhh!” and the boat was tilting because of strong winds.

Each sail boat can hold up to 16 participants. Photo credit: Outward Bound Singapore

Everyone was pretty excited to get through the storm together, even though they were afraid. I just had to make sure they were safe while giving them instructions that allowed them to handle the situation themselves.

Oh, and the best part of the storm was the double rainbow that appeared! Unfortunately, my phone had died, so I was unable to take a picture.

What is your favourite OBS activity to do on the campsite?

Hahaha! I actually love sailing during storms because when you learn something, you might not have a chance to actually apply it. But when a storm really hits you, that is when you have to make full use of everything you know.

I really like the sharing sessions with the participants, especially when they are more comfortable with one another to share about their lives and feelings. I find that very heart-warming.

Aisyah (second from the right, bottom row) with her group of students. Photo credit: OUTWARD BOUND SINGAPORE

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced on the job?

One of the biggest challenges for me would be time commitment. As an instructor, it is my job to run programmes that range from four to 21 days. I have to stay with the participants throughout the programme.

When I do it week after week, I have less time to spend with my family and friends, and I can’t see all of them within the weekends. Sometimes, I drift away from my friends, and it is hard to make them understand [why I can’t spend more time with them].

What advice do you have for youths who want to be an OBS instructor?

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the technical skills yet [such as sailing, climbing or trekking]. If you are willing to improve and if you actually want to train other people through the outdoors, then I think this would be a good job for you.

Educational requirements: You need at least a diploma, but what you study need not be related to this field.

Qualities needed: Physical fitness, self-reliance, self-discipline and compassion are important. You will also need to be able to work and get along with others.

Salary range: Starting from $2,700 for diploma holders, and $3,100 for degree holders.

Working hours: Instructors work 24/7 while conducting a course. Otherwise, 8.15am to 5.45pm on other days. However, sufficient time will be provided for instructors to take leave throughout the year.

Career prospects: An instructor can move on as a team manager or to other departments, such as training operations & policy, and programme teams.

Psst, OBS is looking for instructors! Head here to find out more.

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